Electrical and Electronic Equipment - Environmental impacts of trade liberalization

By Charit Tingsabadh, Pracha Jantarasarsophon on December 5, 2007

Thailand's electrical and electronic equipment (EEE) sector has expanded dramatically over the past decade and has been among the main sectors contributing to export-led growth in the country. This rapid expansion has raised a number of environmental concerns relating to production processes, the generation of EEE waste (or e-waste) and recycling capacities. The paper assesses how trade liberalization in the EEE sector could harm the environment, while highlighting the commercial benefits that could arise from promoting production methods that minimize such impacts. It concludes by outlining options for government policy-making, private sector engagement and capacity building to improve the sector's environmental performance.

Key findings:

  • Thailand ranks among the top three EEE producers in the region (along with China and the Philippines) that together accounted for nearly one third of the value of world EEE exports in 2003.

  • The production of EEE consumes significant amounts of raw metal and energy while contributing to soil and water contamination.

  • The volume of e-waste, which often contains high levels of hazardous or toxic substances that can seep into the soil and groundwater, has grown at an alarming rate of 12 per cent per annum.

  • The development of recycling activities is hampered by failure to enforce existing waste control regulations and lack of market-based incentives to encourage stakeholders to take an active role in waste management.

  • Measures to minimize or recycle e-waste could provide opportunities for increasing competitiveness, accessing foreign markets and responding to consumer demand.

Key recommendations:

  • Take steps to urgently enact the draft Thai WEEE Act as a framework for the public and private sectors involved in the EEE sector.

  • Support the development of the domestic EEE de-manufacturing industry through the use of Board of Investment (BOI) incentives and other tax measures on waste discharge.

  • Encourage the Thai EEE industry to play a proactive role in terms of building innovation in product design and working with government agencies to meet the challenges of increasingly rigid environmental requirements in export markets.

  • Raise awareness of effective waste management strategies among de-manufacturers and recyclers, including through training and certification.

Report details

IISD, 2007